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Measuring molecules with the naked eye

October 26, 2012 1:36 pm | News | Comments

When someone develops liver cancer, the disease introduces a very subtle difference to their bloodstream, increasing the concentration of a particular molecule by just 10 parts per billion. That small shift is normally difficult to detect without sophisticated equipment, but new lab-on-a-chip technology designed at Brigham Young University can reveal the presence of ultra-low concentrations of a target molecule.

Oregon scientists make embryos with 2 women, 1 man

October 26, 2012 9:26 am | by Malcolm Ritter, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Scientists in Oregon have created embryos with genes from one man and two women, using a provocative technique that could someday be used to prevent babies from inheriting certain rare incurable diseases. The embryos are not being used to produce children, but it has already stirred a debate over its risks and ethics in Britain, where scientists did similar work a few years ago.

Scientists aim to analyze whole mouse brain under electron microscope

October 25, 2012 10:21 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Germany are working to build a “circuit diagram” of the mouse brain using an instrument normally confined to study small sample areas. Neurons and axons are tiny in diameter, and can only be studied using electron microscopy. But they can also be very long, making them difficult to map. A new technique, called “serial block face” scanning electron microscopy, gets around this problem.

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US scientists make embryos with 2 women, 1 man

October 24, 2012 1:39 pm | by MALCOLM RITTER - AP Science Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Scientists in the U.S. have created embryos with genes from one man and two women, using a provocative technique that someday could be used to prevent babies from inheriting certain rare incurable diseases. The researchers at Oregon Health & Sciences University said they are not using the...

Scientists build “mechanically active” DNA material

October 23, 2012 4:40 pm | News | Comments

A pair of University of California, Santa Barbara researchers have created a dynamic gel made of DNA that mechanically responds to stimuli in much the same way that cells do. This DNA gel, at only 10 μm in width, is roughly the size of a eukaryotic cell, the type of cell of which humans are made. When “fed”, it can generate forces independently, leading to changes in elasticity or shape.

Water makes a “triple play” at membrane interfaces

October 19, 2012 9:26 am | News | Comments

Drugs that target cell function must pass through a tough gauntlet of membrane defenses. Working from the knowledge that thin water layers at the membrane surfaces play a big part in ion and small molecule transport, scientists using rapid-fire lasers in Japan have revealed that water molecules adopt three distinct local structures around model lipid monolayers. The finding could help drive drug development.

Researchers unveil molecular machine that initiates DNA transcription

October 19, 2012 9:05 am | News | Comments

A team of Rutgers University scientists has determined the 3D structure of the transcription initiation complex, the key intermediate in the process by which cells read out genetic information in DNA. Because the structure studied was from a bacteria, it helps our understanding of bacterial transcription regulation, and provides a starting point for developing new antibacterial agents that function by inhibiting bacterial transcription.

A glance at the brain's circuit diagram

October 17, 2012 12:46 pm | News | Comments

The human brain consists of around 80 billion neurons, which form a tight-knit network that they use to exchange signals with each other. Understanding which neurons connect with each other could provide valuable information about how the brain works. A team of scientists in Germany has developed a method for decoding neural circuit diagrams. Using measurements of total neuronal activity, they can determine the probability that two neurons are connected with each other.

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Study questions feasibility of entire genome sequencing in minutes

October 17, 2012 12:04 pm | News | Comments

The claim that nanopore technology is on the verge of making DNA analysis so fast and cheap that a person's entire genome could be sequenced at low cost in just minutes has produced intense interest. But a review by Northeastern University physicist Meni Wanunu questions whether the remaining technical hurdles can be overcome to create a workable, easily produced commercial device.

Enzymatic pretreatment eliminates infectious bacteria from medical textiles

October 16, 2012 8:52 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Spain have improved the antimicrobial properties of medical textiles using an enzymatic pre-treatment combined with simultaneous deposition of nanoparticles and biopolymers under ultrasonic irradiation. The technique is used to create completely sterile antimicrobial textiles that help prevent hospital-acquired infections.

Evolving microbes help turn bio-oil into advanced biofuels

October 15, 2012 1:09 pm | News | Comments

The bacteria and microalgae typically used to ferment biofuels don’t react well to bio-oil produced by fast pyrolysis. The result of this thermochemical process is a thick, molasses-like oil that is toxic to the microbes. Researchers at Iowa State University, however, have adopted a hybrid approach that incorporates a biochemical conversion path to improve the microbes’ tolerance to contaminants.

Complex logic circuits can be made from bacterial genes

October 12, 2012 5:07 pm | by Diana Lutz, Washington University in St. Louis, Tae Seok Moon, logic circuit, gene circuit | News | Comments

Logic circuits can be built from just about anything, including billiard balls, pipes of water, or animals in a maze. Tae Seok Moon, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, intends to build logic gates out of genes, and has already built the largest such device yet reported. But the purpose of these circuits is not to crunch numbers.

Researcher molecular “e-brake” governing cell self-digestion

October 12, 2012 4:46 pm | News | Comments

In times of distress, cells start to digest their own parts and recycle them for metabolic purposes. Called autophagy, this process plays a role in immune defense as a way to eliminate pathogens. Scientists have recently found the molecular “emergency brake” that regulates autophagy to keep it from getting out of control.

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Synchrotrons play role in Nobel prize research

October 12, 2012 12:04 pm | by Glenn Roberts Jr., SLAC | News | Comments

The winners of the 2012 Chemistry Nobel Prize won for their work in revealing the structure and functioning of a key protein complex on the surface of human cells that has been a target for drug development. Their main tool for this research was X-ray crystallography, which is performed with X-ray synchrotrons. But as the researchers would discover, not all synchrotrons are created equal.   

Scientists discover that shape matters in DNA nanoparticle therapy

October 12, 2012 10:03 am | News | Comments

Researchers from Johns Hopkins and Northwestern universities have discovered how to control the shape of nanoparticles that move DNA through the body and have shown that the shapes of these carriers may make a big difference in how well they work in treating cancer and other diseases. The technique is noteworthy because it does not use a virus to carry DNA into cells.

Bioethics panel urges more gene privacy protection

October 11, 2012 5:53 pm | by Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer | News | Comments

A presidential commission found that it is legally possible in about half of U.S. states to decode a person’s DNA from a sample without their knowledge. Such information could be used to predict what diseases lurk in the person’s future. Although such whole genome sequencing is too costly now to permit abuse, the collision of privacy and genetics is prompting calls for action.

Cells control energy metabolism via hedgehog signalling pathway

October 11, 2012 5:48 pm | News | Comments

Cancer, diabetes, and excess body weight have one thing in common: they alter cellular metabolism. An international research team has resolved a new molecular circuit controlling cellular metabolism. The finding highlights a potential cause of side effects from inhibitors used as cancer treatment, and could lead to new diabetes and obesity therapies.

Nerve signal discovery backs Nobel winner's theory

October 11, 2012 12:10 pm | News | Comments

Scientists in Scotland have proved a 60-year-old theory about how nerve signals are sent around the body at varying speeds as electrical impulses. An insulating layer called myelin surrounds nerve fibers, and is interrupted by gaps called nodes. Sir Andrew Huxley, who won the Nobel Prize in 1963, proposed a theory that the distance between these gaps might affect the speed of electrical signals.

Two U.S. scientists win Nobel chemistry prize

October 10, 2012 11:05 am | by Karl Ritter and Louise Nordstrom, Associated Press | News | Comments

In awarding to Americans the Nobel Prize in chemistry Wednesday, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka had made groundbreaking discoveries, mainly in the 1980s, on an important family of receptors, known as G-protein-coupled receptors. Studies of these protein receptors have been key for developing better drugs.

Nanoscale drug discovery approach relies on in silico, in vivo, in vitro

October 10, 2012 10:58 am | News | Comments

Using in silico computational tools to complement the results of in vivo and in vitro experiments, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have revealed an atomic-level understanding of the mechanism by which nanoparticles inhibit the growth and metastasis of pancreatic tumors. The findings are promising for the development of particle-based therapies.

Super-microbes engineered to solve world environmental problems

October 8, 2012 1:29 pm | News | Comments

Microorganisms isolated from nature use their own metabolism to produce certain chemicals. But they are often inefficient, so metabolic engineering is used to improve microbial performance. Recent work at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology highlights the potential for engineered organism, such as Escherichia coli, to aid in common industrial processes such as polymer production.

Smallest and fastest-known RNA switches provide new drug targets

October 8, 2012 9:40 am | News | Comments

A University of Michigan biophysical chemist and his colleagues have discovered the smallest and fastest-known molecular switches made of RNA, the chemical cousin of DNA. The researchers say these rare, fleeting structures are prime targets for the development of new antiviral and antibiotic drugs.

Nobel prize to Briton, Japanese for stem cell work

October 8, 2012 9:13 am | News | Comments

British researcher John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka of Japan won this year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday for discovering that mature, specialized cells of the body can be reprogrammed into stem cells—a discovery that scientists hope to turn into new treatments. More than 40 years passed between Gurdon’s initial discovery and Yamanaka’s 2006 recipe for creating stem cells.

Researchers create a universal map of vision in the human brain

October 4, 2012 9:52 am | News | Comments

Nearly 100 years after a British neurologist first mapped the blind spots caused by missile wounds to the brains of soldiers, University of Pennsylvania scientists have perfected his map using modern-day technology. Their results create a map of vision in the brain based upon an individual's brain structure, even for people who cannot see. Their result could, among other things, guide efforts to restore vision using a neural prosthesis that stimulates the surface of the brain.

Engineers collaborate on inexpensive DNA sequencing method

October 4, 2012 4:33 am | News | Comments

Rapid, accurate genetic sequencing soon may be within reach of every doctor's office if recent research from the NIST and Columbia University can be commercialized effectively. The team has demonstrated a potentially low-cost, reliable way to obtain the complete DNA sequences of any individual using a sort of molecular ticker-tape reader, potentially enabling easy detection of disease markers in a patient's DNA.

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